Grass Roots – Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles (review)

The Grass Roots – The Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles (Real Gone Music / Universal Music) review

Rescued from the dumpster!  The Grass Roots singles on CD for the first time

In the late 1970’s, MCA Records famously chucked hundreds of single master tapes of their recently-acquired Dunhill Records catalog in the dumpster because they were running out of room.  While this certainly sounds like a heinous crime today, keep in mind that very few people saw the advent of the compact disc coming, and the need to take things from tape sources.  As a result, very few artists from the Dunhill label have ever had their mono, hit single versions put on CD.  We’re talking Steppenwolf, Mamas & Papas, and the Grass Roots, just to name a few.

Well, hallelujah for Real Gone Music, who spent years tracking down the “best sources possible,” scouring vaults from all over the world to bring us The Grass Roots – The Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles.  Finally, these far-superior, punchy mono mixes can be heard.  These are the original versions that were played on the radio in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

They don’t tell you which ones were taken from vinyl, but really you can’t tell – everything sounds fantastic.

There’s no better example than the band’s first hit, “Let’s Live For Today”: in stereo, the music is spread out from left to right, while Rob Grill’s vocal drifts from side to side – it just kinda lays there.  In the mono mix, everything is front and center.  And, when the chorus comes in, it sounds more aggressive, with the drums pounding louder. There’s an urgency to this song – both in the lyrics and the music – that is much-better captured in the mono version.

“Midnight Confessions” is another marked improvement.  In stereo, the organ and horns overpower the vocals.  In the mono mix, Grill’s soulful singing is upfront, where it should be, while the bass is meatier.

The band cranked out a stack of hits – the morse-code insistent “I’d Wait a Million Years,” the pseudo-Monkees’ “Things I Should Have Said,” the Pepper-esque “Bella Linda,” the very Phil Spector ode “The River is Wide,” and the sing-a-long “Sooner or Later.”

One of the band’s finest singles, “Temptation Eyes,” features a descending verse and a fantastic, horn-laden chorus.  It’s unbelievable that the song only climbed to #15 on the charts.

Besides collecting the bands’ hits, there are a few oddities – the Grass Roots’ first release was actually a cover of a Bob Dylan track. “Mr Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)” didn’t chart nationally, but did receive sizable airplay in some markets.  There’s also a “censored” version of “Let’s Live For Today,” which replaces the scandalous-for-1967 lyric of “I’ve got to feel you deep inside me” with “I’ve got to feel you beside me.”  Hmm….my, how times have changed.

There’s an excellent essay from Ed Osborne that sheds light on the band’s somewhat convoluted history.  Though, a paragraph explaining the lengths they had to go to find these singles would have been nice.

The Complete Dunhill/ABC Hit Singles collects the Grass Roots the way they were meant to be heard, in the mono, radio versions.  Here’s hoping Real Gone Music will do the same for other Dunhill artists, like the Mamas & the Papas.  —Tony Peters